Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s legislator son Namal beat a hasty retreat yesterday after leading an anti-India protest outside the Indian Consulate and clashing with police at Hambantota.
The young Member of Parliament used a loud hailer to work the crowd to a frenzy as the Joint Opposition rally marched from the Hambantota beach to the Consulate.
“Indo (Indian) colony apita epa, Indo colony apita epa, (we don’t want Indian colonies, we don’t want Indian colonies),” Namal repeated at the top of his voice, while his chorus shouted “Epa, epa (don’t want, don’t want).”
He then switched to China drumming up anti-Chinese slogans on the same lines.
However, as the video and audio of Namal Rajapaksa’s militant xenophobic attack was carried on social media, the Hambantota young MP attempted damage control by issuing a tweet saying he was not targeting any country.
“Our protest is not against investment or any specific country. We’re protesting against the #SriLanka Government & its policies,” Namal Rajapaksa said on Twitter. However, it was too late as social media had already lit up with his anti-India and anti-China rants.
Fearing a backlash from the Colombo-based diplomatic community, the young parliamentarian took to Twitter to try and minimise the damage to the image of Mahinda Rajapaksa who during his regime had welcomed foreign capital, particularly from India and China.
The Rajapaksa-led protest came amid reports that Indian companies have shown interest in a public-private partnership to revive the loss-making Mattala international airport whose revenue is insufficient to even pay salaries of staff employed there.
The 210-million US dollar airport services only one flight a day and has already established a world record as the least utilised international airport.
Some of the anti-Indian and anti-Chinese placards carried said, “Let us save the country from Chinese and Indian octopuses.”
Namal Rajapaksa defied a court order and led demonstrators to the Indian consulate prompting the authorities to use water cannon and tear gas to defend the diplomatic compound and its staff, police said.
Police used loud hailers to warn the demonstrators that they were in breach of a magisterial order outlawing the protest. However, it was ignored and parliamentarian Rajapaksa led his supporters towards the Indian consulate. They tried to dismantle barricades and storm the diplomatic premises triggering a police water cannon and teargas attack. Former foreign minister G. L. Peiris represented Basil Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Party.
Police said they arrested 28 people, including six women, who defied the court order and clashed with police.